Hollyoaks aired the final scenes for Lily McQueen on Wednesday 10th April (E4) as the tragic teen died from sepsis as a result of her self-harming, bringing actress Lauren McQueen's time on the show to an emotional end.
The heartbreaking episode saw Lily on the run with boyfriend Romeo Quinn (Owen Warner) to escape him being falsely jailed for murder, unaware she had contracted the blood poisoning condition in her wounds from the self-harm addiction she had been battling and needed urgent treatment. As aunt Diane Hutchinson (Alex Fletcher), uncle Tony Hutchinson (Nick Pickard) and ex-husband Prince McQueen (Malique Thompson-Dwyer) raced to rescue her, Lily collapsed and succumbed to her illness in a public toilet.
RadioTimes.com spoke to Lauren McQueen about why she's leaving Hollyoaks, which she joined in January 2017, the challenges of the self harm storyline and what she's doing next.
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Are you sad to be leaving?
Yes but it was my decision. I want to play lots of different roles in my career and I felt it was the right time, I didn't want to fade into the background after the self-harm story. I'm happy they gave me such a big storyline to go out on it's been a real challenge.
How do you feel about Lily being killed off, would you have liked a happy ending?
I think a happy ending is what everyone would’ve wanted for Lily but her dying makes a bigger impaction the audience. It shows the reality that self harm can be life-threatening. Hopefully it will start conversations about self harm and sepsis, people don’t realise how common the disease is and that you can die from it.
What research did you do with regard to sepsis?
A friend of mine had cancer and got sepsis twice. I talked to her and she was able to help me with the physical side of how it affected the body, it basically shuts down, and the emotions Lily would be feeling.
Was it traumatic filming the final scenes?
I was quite nervous about the death scene, I wanted to get it right and for it to be as real as possible. I listened to what my friend told me and researched symptoms online to it do justice. Hollyoaks is on at 6.30pm in the evening so while it is shocking for the audience we've ensured it's been researched and handled within the guidelines for the timeslot. Acting out Lily's gradual decline was very challenging.
How did it feel to have the whole episode devoted to Lily's story?
It was amazing but at the same time extra pressure. I'm very grateful, the whole week is focused on Lily and there are some extra special touches like being on location, the slow-motion shots at the start of each episode and (spoken word artist) Hussain Manawer's poetry being used that he wrote especially. It makes it really powerful.
Who was the love of her life in the end, Romeo or Prince?
Prince is definitely the one, in her last episode she started to have doubts about running away with Romeo and it hits her, she realises that's not the life she's been dreaming of. She’s made the wrong decision never gets to say goodbye to Prince which is even more heartbreaking. If she’d lived she would’ve tried to make it work with him. It's sad they never get that closure.
Did she regret the whole relationship with Romeo?
No, he was the only one who got her sometimes and they had a connection and understood what the other was going through. They shared similar dark thoughts, both are quite tormented. Even back to the storm when he talked about ‘the darkness inside being beautiful,’ no one had ever told her that before. Lily was intrigued by him.
How will everyone cope in the aftermath of Lily's death?
They’ll be struggling for a long time and be blaming themselves, especially Diane. She tried to help her, get her away from the village and the situation with Romeo and Prince but it didn't stop Lily self-harming. I hope everyone gets together and supports each other because they have all lost a good friend, but I think there's going to be a lot of arguing…
What message do you hope Lily's death sends out to the audience?
I hope people relating to Lily will talk to someone and not hide their feelings away. It's terrifying because you think no one will understand you, but it's really important to reach out to someone, whether they’re from a charity, a family member or a friend, to know you’re not alone. And people need to know sepsis can be life threatening, hopefully raising awareness about it will help.
What are you doing next?
I've been filming the Sky One drama Bulletproof with Noel Clarke and Ashley Walters (the second series of the detective show is currently in production). It's been great to be working on something straight away after Hollyoaks.
Would you do another soap?
No, I’ve done that genre now and I wouldn’t do another soap out of loyalty to Hollyoaks - I'd feel too bad! I’ll definitely watch after Lily’s death, it will be strange seeing her funeral and how people cope without her, it will be quite emotional for me.
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